Yesterday afternoon I spent a fair amount of time replying to an e-mail from a man who wrote to tell me that he was tired of his corporate job and wanted to become self-employed. So far, so good.
Then he went on to give me all the reasons why this was impossible. He had a large family to support, he was too exhausted when he got home from work to get something going, etc. etc. There wasn’t anything very original about his list.
I wrote back and said, “Just from what you told me, I think you may be getting ahead of yourself. Of course, it seems overwhelming to make a life transition when you’re already booked and committed.
“Do you have a clear idea about what sort of business you’d like to start? Can you find even 30 minutes a day to start laying the groundwork? Have you got written goals? Can you get family support for making a lifestyle change? Seems to me, your next step is to plan your transition…not decide it can’t be done.”
What I wanted to tell him, but didn’t, was that he called to mind Richard Bach’s observation: “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.”
I had barely hit the send button on my message when my phone rang. The call was from Paul, a man I’d met several years ago when he attended my seminars in San Francisco.
At the time, Paul was working at a government job, not so happily married, and longing to travel. I remember how somber and sad he seemed.
When I heard from him next, he had quit his job, left his bad marriage and was focusing on making his living from travel.
It was fun to watch as Paul began building his business teaching various travel seminars he’d created. At first, he focused on teaching in his home state of California. The next year he went national and was zipping around the country sharing information on living abroad and getting the most out of traveling like a local.
When Paul’s parents became ill, he suspended his travel activities to care for them. In the past year, both his mother and father had died and Paul is planning his next chapter.
He told me about his immediate plans to study French in Montreal and spend time on a Semester at Sea. As he was sharing his excitement about his new adventures, I kept thinking about my e-mail correspondent who felt so trapped.
Cynics would point out that Paul does not have the same obligations as the other fellow so, obviously, he can gallivant around. Cynics would be missing the point.
In our long catch-up chat, Paul told me that he really didn’t have any long-term plans. He was focusing on his upcoming travels. “I’m not worried. Having the experience of starting my business gave me so much confidence,” he said, “that I know I can do it again.”
It’s an observation I’ve heard over and over again from my self-employed friends. Why then, I wonder, is Paul’s discovery such a well-kept secret? And why do so many people treat self-employment like a spectator sport?
Maybe the answer to those perplexing questions can be found in these words from an anonymous source: A willing heart will find a thousand ways. An unwilling heart will find a thousand excuses.
Or perhaps Paul has discovered what Chris Rock pointed out in an interview last week on CBS Sunday Morning. “Being rich is not about having a lot of money,” Rock said. “Being rich is about having a lot of options.”